Monday, April 28, 2008

Update on personal change

Regular readers might remember that I joined a gym in November 2007.  I had belonged to a gym very briefly more than twenty years ago. I used that membership to ride an exercise bike and do sit ups and it ended when my first son was born.

Since then, my exercise has involved running a household - which can provide a surprising amount of lifting, stair climbing, and walking.  Still, it is not the same as forming an intention to exercise regularly and carry it out.  Some of you are probably wondering if my gym membership has quietly gone the way of many good intentions. . .

Not yet.  In fact, as I sit here, I am impatient to get to the gym.  I go four or five times most weeks.  When I have missed a day or two, I am stiff and wired up and ready for exercise.  I go because I like the way I feel while I am there, and I like the way I feel as a result of being there.

I do not go because I should go. Once a month, I meet with a personal trainer because I like to have some external check on what I do, not because I have goals to meet.  When I joined the gym, I had two goals. The first was to be able to carry my laptop and books around the college.  That was successful: I did not resort to putting my bags on wheels even during the final weeks of semester when I was weighed down with marking.  

The second goal was to be able to occasionally run with the people close to me who enjoy running.  I am still working on ecology checks for that goal.  According to my elliptical machine, I can now do 5 km in about 22 minutes - which would meet my goal if I could take the elliptical machine out running with me.  I have been less successful with the treadmill. I don't like the treadmill.  Mostly, that means I choose not to work out on the treadmill and have no idea if my circuit training and elliptical will mean I can run once in a while. I will keep you posted as the weather facilitates running.

I do not know why other people are working out at the gym.  I put on my headphones and spend time with my musical workout buddy.  Most of the music is mellow, designed to moderate my heartbeat as I workout at higher resistances.  I work out on the circuit and zone out on the elliptical and relax as my muscles work.  It feels great.  I have no worries at the gym.

In short, I am still working out because working out still feels like recess to me.  I have neither lost nor gained weight through the cold, dark, stressful months of winter.  I am stronger now. I sleep better. I carry my own stuff.  It's all good.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Winter is finished

It's finally warm enough to go outside without a coat! That means even if it gets cold and (knock on wood) even if it snows briefly, winter is finished and summer is only a heartbeat away.

Chris and I finished our workshop at ProjectWorld on Friday (great people, interesting event) and walked down to Harbourfront for a drink on the patio overlooking the water. It was a perfect ending to a workshop on resilience - the lake and the sunshine are resources that allow us to bounce back and move forward.

Today is beautiful.  Really notice - the car is warm when you climb into it; the grass is getting green; the tulips and daffodils are pushing their way towards the sky; there are people outside and they are smiling - and wearing shorts.  Smile. Relax. 

Be aware that you are gathering what you need to develop bounce.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How did you get to the edge?

Maybe you recognize yourself in this scenario. You wake up.  You think about the day ahead. You realize that if everything goes at least 95% right, you will be okay.  You will manage.

If something dips below the 95% okay, you will be doomed.

When there is almost no ground to stand on between two extremes, you know you have found the edge.

Think about a time you found that edge, a day when you were almost overwhelmed by everything you had to do.  Then look back.  How did you get to that edge? Where did the rest of the ground go?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The hypnotic contract

Under what conditions would you allow someone else to tell you what to think?  

If you have watched a stage hypnotist, you have seen what looks like one person exercising remarkable control over the thoughts and actions of another. It is fascinating, in part, because we have all seen it happen in real life. Suddenly someone we know seems to be relying on someone else to do the thinking.  Even if the influence is good, it is a little frightening.

The secret is that there are no magic words.  In order to lead someone into hypnosis, that person has to be willing to go there. Often the people you see on stage are more than willing. For whatever reasons, they are enthusiastic about giving up self control and allowing someone else to take charge. They know that there are limits to what can happen on stage and they are only agreeing to give up control within those limits.

What you see in hypnosis is an agreement between two people. Like all agreements between human beings, it stretches as far as it stretches and no further.

We all let ourselves get talked into things that are not in our best interest. We all do things to ourselves that we would not do to our friends. We all fool ourselves, from time to time. We can be manipulated because we are not always smart or kind - to ourselves. This does not require hypnosis.

To understand hypnosis, we begin by understanding the nature of the agreement between hypnotist and the person hypnotized (not the 'subject' since that implies someone is being acted on instead of acting with). As we understand how to create agreement by setting limits to agreement, we pick up immensely practical understanding about how influence works outside of hypnosis.  

We also begin to understand how someone else can be a necessary guide if we are to relax and reach deep inside to find out what we are made of.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Think about integrity


• noun 1 the quality of being honest and morally upright. 2 the state of being whole or unified. 3 soundness of construction.
                                                                   The Compact Oxford English Dictionary

I like to think that the common elements in different definitions of integrity is the ability to withstand external pressure and keep it together.  

People who are fundamentally honest keep it together because all the different parts of their lives fit into one pattern of truth. People who are fundamentally reliable keep themselves together by maintaining a pattern of relationships that stabilizes their sense of who they are and what they want most.  People of integrity have stability.

People of integrity also have flexibility. Because they know their own minds, they are not afraid to look at other points of view. Because they know their own direction, they can find more than one way to get where they are going.  Integrity allows people to move and change and yet to know themselves to be essentially whole and 'of sound construction.'

Your integrity is important to you. It gives you the strength and flexibility to keep yourself together as you take action in the world. The integrity of others is important to you. It allows you to predict how they will act and react.  It allows you to work with them.

What do you do differently when something is important to you?

What are you doing to support integrity in yourself and others?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

5 ways to not see

Have you ever been looking at something that is absolutely clear an present and been frustrated that someone else could not see it? Did you assume that the problem was really that they were choosing not to see?

It's easy for us to assume that what we see should be visible to other people. It's easy, and usually at least a little wrong and not at all useful. There are at least 5 ways that people cannot see what seems to you to be right in front of them.

The first way is that you are wrong. What you are seeing is not actually there. You have a "vision" that is clear within your brain but not clearly present in the physical world.

The second way is that they are "blind" - actually or metaphorically. They do not have the neurological equipment to register the presence of what you are seeing.

The third way is related to the first two. Everyone has a physiological blind spot - a part of our field of vision where no information gets recorded. We do not notice our own blindspots because our brains cleverly decide what should be there and paint us what looks like one seamless picture.

The fourth way is that the people are not looking right in front of them - they are twisting and turning and gazing off into the distance. They do not see what you see because they are not looking at it, even though it seems obvious that they have access to it.

The fifth way is that what you are looking at means something different to them - or means nothing at all to them. This is the case with people who are born blind and regain their physical vision. They can register visual information but they cannot make meaning out of what they see. Click here for a recent study of one of these cases.

The next time someone cannot see your point, find out why. Do you need to help them move their attention so that what you see registers with them? Or do you have to establish connections with patterns that already have meaning for them? Maybe they will never see it at all - because they are blind or because what you are seeing is more vision than reality.

None of these means that either you or the other person are bad or weak or hostile. Understanding that gives you hope that you can maintain the relationship and move forward. Even when you see differently.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Don't make your case: tell your story instead

What if these were the most powerful words in the world:
"Let me tell you a story."

These are the most powerful words in the world. When we put a message into the form of a story, we make it tangible, emotional, and shared. Arguments divide: stories connect.

All stories are optimistic. When we tell war stories, we show that we have learned and that it is possible to survive struggles and move forward. Stories build resilience in difficult times and offer patterns of success when times are good.

Our stories have meaning that shifts a little as we tell them to different people. Stories are not patterns set in stone: they are a dynamic representation of a link between teller and listener. What the story means is what the listener thinks it means. The strategies, goals, and beliefs conveyed through stories are actively owned and actively shared.

Stories allow us to express conflict (within the story) without engaging in conflict (with our listeners). They allow us to build patterns of behaviour and belief that move us forward and ensure that we have company when we get where we are going.

Stories really do change the world.

Think about it. Visit my storytelling page at

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Spring sweaters

There are probably parts of the world where spring means you no longer need sweaters. Not here. Here, spring means wearing a sweater without adding three more layers. Somehow, pulling on a sweater and feeling warm enough lets us know that the world outside is a friendlier place.

My flowers are tougher than I am. There are bunches of tiny purple crocuses (croci?) under my living room window. The little white snowdrops are out, too. They are instantly present and in bloom when the snow melts above them. How do they know it's spring while they are still snow-covered?

How do you know it's spring? How do you know it is time to climb out from under winter and face the world, fresh and lively and hopeful?

Maybe you are ready the way the flowers are ready. You have been biding your time, all the while growing fresh shoots and new beginnings. Maybe you need a little help; you are ready to change your colours if not to give up sweaters altogether.

We talk all the time as though change is hard. Some changes are.

Some changes are as fresh and natural as the snowdrop crocus waiting under the snow.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What's the difference between work and play?

I had one of those conversations today when someone (a young someone) told me that what he wanted was to make enough money in a short time so that he would not have to work any more.

Do you remember summers when you were a kid? I do. Long, long, endless days. Sometimes in the rosy glow we often put on childhood. Often long, endlessly dull days, waiting for something to happen, something to do.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All play and no work makes Jack a dull boy.

That's one way that work and play are similar.

If you are lucky, there are more ways. Better ways.

Think of a time you came out of a long meeting so wrapped up in thoughts and actions that you dove in at your computer and did not come up for air for several hours. Think of a time when you were so connected with work and work people that the end of the day came before you were ready for it. Think of a time when you worked until you were exhausted, and it felt really good.

If you cannot think of times like these, then your work is not play.

If you can think of times like these, then you have been a little bit lucky and a little bit wise. You have found a way to blur the line between work and play.